Sexual abuse cases continue to mount against Devereux as five new abuse survivors come forward to file individual complaints alleging that Devereux and partner QualityHealth Staffing exposed them to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by its staff and failed to enact or enforce safety measures or protective policies
Lieff Cabraser and Sauder Schelkopf filed a new lawsuit on behalf of five abuse survivors who have recently come forward alleging they were exposed to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse while in the care of The Devereux Foundation (d/b/a Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health) along with its staffing company QualityHealth Staffing, LLC. Every year Devereux takes on responsibility for protecting more than 25,000 of America’s most vulnerable children in 21 facilities across 13 states: children with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and specialty mental health needs, including youths in the child welfare system. The new Complaint, filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleges “Instead of fulfilling its promise and solemn responsibility to protect these vulnerable youth, Devereux exposed them to predators and abusers. Devereux failed to enact safety measures and other policies to protect children; failed to adequately screen, hire, train, and supervise staff; and failed to fulfill its duties under state and federal law.”
The Complaint details the abuse against children in the care of Devereux, including batteries, sexual offenses, emotional abuse, and rape. In August 2020, The Philadelphia Inquirer released a devastating report detailing decades of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse inflicted upon these especially vulnerable children by Devereux staff members. The report revealed that “at least 41 children as young as 12, and with IQs as low as 50, have been raped or sexually assaulted by Devereux staff members in the last 25 years.”
After the Inquirer’s August 2020 report was published, an additional 13 former Devereux students came forward with allegations of sexual abuse they experienced. These children were as young as 8 years old when they were allegedly sexually abused. Twelve of the children were allegedly abused in Pennsylvania Devereux facilities, and one was abused in a Delaware Devereux facility. Seven of those children reportedly complained to Devereux staff or a social worker while the abuse was happening, but their complaints were ignored, and the abuse continued.
The most recent five abuse survivors accuse Devereux of fostering sexual abuse bring this lawsuit to hold Devereux accountable for the harm it caused them, and also to try to prevent this ongoing and devastating abuse from happening to anyone else in Devereux’s care.
“As these cases continue to mount against Devereux, it just keeps pushing your outrage further and further,” notes Lieff Cabraser partner Annika K. Martin, who represents the plaintiffs in the newest lawsuit. “It’s time for Devereux to be held fully accountable, and that these atrocities against our most vulnerable children come to an end.”
Devereux is a private behavioral health organization which operates 21 campuses in 13 states, annually treating more than 25,000 children and young adults with advanced behavioral, intellectual, developmental, and mental health needs. Included among Devereux’s facilities and programs are residential treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals, group homes, supported living communities, schools, special education centers, and outpatient programs.
Devereux regularly receives state and federal funding, examples of which include: funding from the Florida legislature to expand Devereux Florida’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Program; funding from “a combination of contracts and private foundation and government grants, including the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs” for Devereux’s Center for Effective Schools (a non-profit research and training center which is a division of Devereux Institute of Clinical and Professional Training and Research); grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to develop programs for Devereux CARES, which has been licensed as an “Approved Private School;” and a $40.2 million contract from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to house migrant youth at Devereux facilities in five states.
“This new case follows on the heels of our class action lawsuit against Devereux, filed in the summer of 2021, which seeks changes in policies and procedures” adds Sauder Schelkopf partner Joe Sauder, who also represents the plaintiffs in the instant lawsuit. “With every new Devereux abuse survivor who comes forward, we hope they’ll be the last, but the breadth of Devereux’s failures continues to widen.”
The lawsuit advances claims that include negligence, negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision, gross negligence, assault and battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and breach of fiduciary duty.
Joseph G. Sauder
SAUDER SCHELKOPF LLC
1109 Lancaster Avenue
Berwyn, PA 19312
Tel: (888) 711-9975
Facsimile: (610) 421-1326
Annika K. Martin
LIEFF CABRASER HEIMANN & BERNSTEIN, LLP
250 Hudson Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 355-9500
Facsimile: (212) 355-9592